Chile is a special place: delicious food, the kindest of people, a big-little city (Santiago), and hugely varied terrain of The Andes Mountains. In fact, it’s one of our favorite countries to visit. We raced the EWS both in Chile and Argentina back in 2016 and got married in between rounds near Bariloche, Argentina. Click the link below, and join us as we share with you our 2020 Andes Pacifico experience and take you on a whirlwind tour of Santiago!
Chile is a special place: delicious food, the kindest of people, a big-little city (Santiago), and hugely varied terrain of The Andes Mountains. In fact, it’s one of our favorite countries to visit -- we raced the EWS in Chile and Argentina back in 2016, and got married in between rounds near Bariloche, Argentina.
So…. what do you do when you’re a full-time foodie in Santiago, Chile for the Andes Pacifico Enduro Race and only have a day and a half to see the city? You find all the must-visit dive bars, and hole-in-the wall eateries and do them all! Meet the Hardins and join them as they take you on a whirlwind tour of Santiago and surrounding trails in “On the Road with the Hardins”.
Santiago, the capital of Chile, sits in a valley surrounded by the Andes Mountains. Home to over seven million people, it is a place of vibrant street art, pisco and chilean cuisine. While currently in a state of civil unrest, in our experience, the capital was actually quite safe to visit.
Downtown Santiago is bustling -- horns honking, skyscrapers as far as the eye can see, yet it feels small as you walk around amidst the hustle. People are kind and curious, always warm and welcoming.
Our first impression of the city: friendly. From the “city center”, it was about 4 km in any direction to a must-see - not bad. We were able to navigate the city quickly on “Lime” Scooters at a reasonable price -- most of the time they were faster than taxis due to traffic! To cruise, download the Lime app, find your nearest scooter and zoom!
Our first recommended stop is “Chipe Libre,” the Independent Republic of Pisco. Known for their Pisco tasting flights, and small snacks, it’s a great place to shake off the jetlag, taste some pisco and see a bit of the city. First things first, however, Pisco! The origins of pisco took place in colonial times in the XVII century as wine producers were struggling to produce wine for the city of Potosi. The Atacama Desert proved such an obstacle that the wine was not getting to Potosi in a drinkable state, so producers started to distill the wine and import it through a port in Southern Peru named “Pisco”. This distilled wine eventually became known as “Pisco” -- Peruvians claim it is due to the name of the port and area, while Chileans believe it is the generic name of the spirit and should be used by each country to define the spirit. To this day, the argument remains, as does Chilean Pisco and Peruvian Pisco.
Unique to the spirit, regulations state that Peruvian pisco can be made with a range of eight grapes, must be distilled only once to proof after resting for at least three months, and cannot be aged in wood. Chilean Pisco, on the other hand, can be made from a range of 14 grapes, and may be distilled multiple times to proof, as well as aged in wood. These small differences in production lend to significant differences in flavor and notes -- try one of each and let your bartender be your guide. At Chipe Libre, we highly recommend the “Chi (from the South) Flight”, featuring Diaguitas Reservado Transparente 40, Brujas de Salamanca Reservado 40, and Mistral Nobel Piscos -- the Brujas was our favorite; super smooth, with notes of caramel. Looking for a proper cocktail? Try one of the many flavored Pisco Sours (Pisco + Egg white) -- the basil is super refreshing!
Upon leaving Chipe Libre, take a left and wander the streets -- you might find a corner street symphony of violins and cello, or a crew of dancers amidst street vendors selling everything from copper earrings to paintings, and a wide variety of marijuana-based treats.
Be sure to look up, as many buildings in this “Zona Cerro” area are used as canvases by local artists, and feature not only designs and imagery, but graffitti protesting the high costs of healthcare, poor funding of education and general inequality in Chile. Pay close attention, as the people of Santiago share their voice and spread the message of what’s really happening within the city through their brightly colored stickers, flyers, and graffiti.
On the corner of Merced and Jose Victorino Lastarria, enter the classy Singular Hotel and go upstairs to The Rooftop Bar for a small bite. From here, you can get a pretty good view of San Cristobal, the second highest point in the city, marked by Statue Cristobal. If you have the time, it’s worth a visit via Funicular to the park.
But first things first, while you’re at The Rooftop Bar, order the “Carpaccio de Pulpo, limon y cilantro”, translated as Octopus Carpaccio with lemon and coriander and the "Empanada de Centolla" translated as the King Crab Empanada-- you will not be disappointed: Creamy, buttery octopus garnished with edible flowers, and small colorful beads of flavor bursting sauces. Buttery, rich pockets of cheesy crab -- while not a traditional chilean empanada of beef, raisins and olives, it was one of our favorites of the trip.
From the Singular, wander about 20 minutes West to “Mercado Central” and get a true taste of Chile. While a bit touristy and a bit crowded, Mercado Central is home to a variety of markets, and most commonly known for its many seafood vendors and restaurants. Similar to Pike’s Place Market in Seattle, Washington (USA), you can wander the aisles of freshly caught fish or take a seat at one of the many restaurants inside for a bite of seafood.
On the SW corner on the outside of the market, find “Emporio Zunino”. Founded in 1930, it takes the claim as Chile’s oldest empanaderias, and is where all the locals go for an empanada. Pay at the booth inside, give your ticket to one of the cooks behind the counter and place your order -- Fresh out of the oven comes a light and airy pastry in the form of a Traditional Pino (beef, egg and olive), Cheese or Pizza Empanada -- the empanadas here are the most traditional of all we tasted (and we tasted, at least one per restaurant!).
Across the square, wander to La Piojera, the Mercado’s dive-bar, to try Chile’s national drink, “El Terremoto”, which translates to “Earthquake” -- if you drink too much, it’s as though the ground is shaking, and you’re in an earthquake! In an almost continuous motion, watch bartenders scoop pineapple sorbet into a cup and follow it up with Pipeno, a sugary white wine, and either Fernet or Grenadine syrup. Deceptively sweet, the Terremoto is a perfect way to wash down that empanada. Stay and watch the scene -- bartenders are friendly, and the place is by no means a dive-bar. It’s colorful walls are covered in fun posters and signatures, and if you’re lucky you might catch some traditional accordion music.
At this point, it’s highly likely you’ll be in a food coma -- jump in a cab and head to Las Condes to Centro Artesanias los Dominicos, a collection of artisans showcasing their talents. A bit out of the way, but well worth it for some culture and souvenir grabs. Most common is anything copper (think pans, earrings, rings, plates) as Chile is the largest prophyr copper exporter in the world. Also common: pottery, wood carvings, alpaca blankets and clothing, as well as various other fiberworks, and “Crin”: the art of recycling horse hair and dying it with natural plant fibers. These fibers may then be woven into jewelry such as bracelets or necklaces, or be used alongside metals of the region.
Centro Artesanias los Dominicos is a great place to find that little Chilean remembrance -- note most artisan stalls are closed on Mondays. In addition, if you’re in Santiago on a Sunday, law states that workers must have at least two Sundays off a month, so many restaurants, etc… are closed
Once you’ve gotten your favorite people a goodie, hop a Lime scooter to dinner at Margo on Isidora Goyenechea in Las Condes. I’ll let the photos do the talking, but do be sure to order the “Plateada” with Sweetcorn Puree, a traditional chilean dish, as well as the “Prawns with creamed Mote” and “Octopus with Chimichurri on Pea puree”.
Now that you’ve eaten your way through Santiago, you’re probably ready to get some wheels on the ground.
Santiago proper has 3-4 areas very close to town that are safe and easily accessible -- simply open up Trailforks and pedal your heart out.
However, if like us, you’re looking for a proper adventure vacation, consider registering for the Andes Pacifico, a 5 day blind enduro bike race from the Andes Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. Imagine you and your friends relaxing creekside, beer in hand, belly full of humidas (a delicious corn-like tamale treat), waiting for a gourmet dinner, while your bike gets a full tune-up by SRAM mechanics. After a dinner of Argentinian steak and quinoa salad, you saunted back to your tent for a full night’s rest before you wake up and shred a full day of Chilean anti-grip. Who wouldn’t want to partake?
At Andes Pacifico, you are fully catered to: food is cooked by proper chefs, creekside beers and snacks are waiting post-race for your indulgence, massage therapists are available to tune up your race legs or offer some extra vacation relaxation. Your tent accomodation and gear are moved from camp to camp for you as locations change. Bike mechanics are on-hand and available for your bike-fixing needs -- there’s even a tech riding the trail alongside racers for any on-trail mishaps... All the while, you’re on trail having the experience of a lifetime, racing stages that start as high as 11,700ft at the Argentinian border, while condors circle overhead and juicy watermelon and empanadas wait at the finish line.
Every single person racing or at all associated with the event is awesome -- everyone is there to have a good time, and you can choose to race to win, or race for fun! The event is full of good energy and genuinely wonderful people from all over the world.
For this year’s event, organizers took the race farther North than it ever had been, meaning every day we saw different terrain than the day prior. Everything from high alpine moonscape, to steep and sandy, to loose and rocky to riverbed tech and what seemed like “live” fresh cut trail through fields of thorny bushes. The anti-grip was constant, however, as braking distances at race pace were about four times normal and most stages required a high level of focus to avoid riding with too much front brake and ending up in the thorns. The anti-grip in Chile is no joke, and made for a wild five days of racing!
My favorite and most memorable stage was the last stage on Day 3, which took us down a track that was part sand, part loose babyheads, and full of big moto-ruts at that oh so perfect angle of descent. This ended up being a stage that was tossed at the end of the day for technical problems, but was one of my favorites, setting that perfect drift into moto-corners and just holding on. Mind the cactus and other pointy things, of course. The stage ended at a feed station of pizza empanadas, watermelon and other fresh fruit -- doesn’t get much better than that. As for memorable moments, I’d say getting to see so many of our traveling circus friends, as well as meet so many wonderful new people: Australians, Colombians, Czechs -- these people are friends for life now.
For Nick, this was his first race since ACL-surgery a little over a year ago. He chose to race Master’s in order to give himself the opportunity to return to racing with a little less internal pressure, and to allow himself the time to get back into the swing of things -- worked out pretty well as his knee felt 110%, and he won his category. YEW!
We’re already planning out our next Trans event! Where to next?
See you on the trails,
Kim & Nick Hardin
Big thanks to EVIL, Chris King Precision Components, Race Face, Dakine, SMITH, PUSH, Dumond Tech, KickStand Coffee & Kitchen for supporting us in our adventures!
Pro Tip: If you decide to make the trip, be sure to double check your baggage as it is being tagged for Santiago (SCL). It is not uncommon that it will accidentally be tagged for SLC, and your bikes won’t show up for a few days. If that happens to you, visit the street market near Chupe Libre for a sock purchase.
If you haven't been to Sedona, do yourself a favor, and book a ticket, Now. Seriously, do it.
Sedona is located in central Arizona and known for it's red rock, deep canyons, pine trees, and extensive network of trails for both hiking and mountain biking. Long rocky slabs lead way to stair-stepping red chunky rocks line with prickly pear cactus. Technical climbing is a thing, and Sedona mileage is not like you're typical backyard mileage -- think power move after power move after power move. The sun rises early, and darkness falls quickly.
Roam Bike Fest "West" took place November 8-10 as 350 women descended on the Red Agave Resort for the world's largest bike festival for women. The festival started early on Friday, with VIP rides and product demos. Each brand held a mini "clinic" in the afternoon and a "Happy Hour" around dinnertime.
On the daily, women could go out and ride on their own, or participate in a scheduled ride with the various brands.
For both East and West Roam Bike Fest, I attended as a Dakine athlete, leading rides. In Sedona, we were lucky enough to have a solid group of ladies along for a "Hi-Line" ride, one of the more challenging trails in the area, as well as a huge group for an intermediate ride on Broken Arrow. With a little bit of coaching, and some line-choice help, we all made it down in one piece, all smiles! Each day, as we meandered back to home-base at The Red Agave, the change in the girl's confidence level was something to see -- girls were sending ledges and riding technical downhill bits that they wouldn't even touch over the first half of the ride. Pretty awesome -- this makes for a pretty fun environment and experience for everyone involved. Thanks Roam! I'm already looking forward to next year!
Happy Hour anyone?
Team Dakine/Hydrapak and our raffle winner!
Deep in the Hi Line Vortex
Less Talky More Bikes, as Roam Says!
Packing your bike for air travel can be daunting.... let us break it down for you!
1. Be sure your seat dropper is all the way down, and hang your bike in a bike rack.
2. Remove both pedals (spacers too if you have them!) and both wheels. Put pedals in ziplock, along with spacers. Put brake chips between brake pads (to prevent caliper being pressed during travel and having to bleed your brakes upon arrival).
3. Remove your brake rotors, and place in ziplock or pouch along base of travel bag. Must be kept flat during travel and not allowed to bend.
4. Remove your stem and attach bars/stem to frame (We prefer to detach at the stem/steerer tube interface vs stem/handlebars, so you keep all your angles the same, and it's simply less bolts to remove).
5. Remove fender and place in bag.
6. Remove chain quick link and place quick link and full chain in ziplock (this allows you to fully tuck the derailleur away in the next step).
7. Remove rear derailleur (leave the hanger on), and zip-tie the derailleur between the rear chain stays. I always run a zip-tie through the attachment bolt at the rear derailleur to hold all the spacers, etc. together during travel.
8. Add foam along the frame if you would like more padding.
9. Place in your bag and tie down accordingly.
10. Deflate tires slightly, and put wheels in wheelbase along sides of the bike.
11. Stuff your bag full of all your gear!
Of course, bike bags vary in size and layout. While the steps above will help you break down your bike for travel, there may be an extra bike-specific step to add.
Note: Before flying, be sure to check with your airline about weight and size restrictions. Currently, American airlines will let you fly your bike for $35 if the bag is less than 50#! There are also embargo's throughout the world that may impact your ability to fly a bike with a certain airline into a certain country. Do your homework, and check these details!
Oh, and don't carry CO2 in your bike bag- it's unlikely to be found, but very possible you'll get your boarding pass taken away while boarding at 11pm in Colombia, and bags taken off the plan while police search your bags. Oops. At least they let us back on the plane... eventually!
Once you get to where you're going, simply reverse the process!
See you at the airport,
When choosing a handlebar, first consider your riding style. Do you prefer XC, DH, Enduro, or are you a cruiser? Are you a petite female who prefers riding DH, or a tall lanky man who races XC?
Flat vs. Riser Bars:
Bars vary from a flat bar (0mm rise) to a medium rise (20mm), to hi-rise (35/40mm). Generally speaking, a flat bar will pull your body low and to the front. Your steering will be very precise at lower speeds and on flat trails, as more weight is distributed over the front wheel. However, on steeper trails, riding can become challenging due to the forward biased body position over the front wheel.
On a high rise bar, your weight is more evenly distributed as the body position is more open, and torso more vertical, shifting weight rearwards, in comparison to a flat bar. This allows for easier unweighting of the front wheel, and generally better descending than a flat bar. However, at lower speeds and flat trails, steering is less precise, lending the rider to actively ride farther forward to weight the front wheel, and maintain maximal control.
Bars vs. Spacers:
Overall bar height is affected by the rise of the handlebar, but also the number of spacers under the stem.
To break it down, riser bars affect vertical height only. Adding or removing spacers (under the stem), on the other hand, affect vertical height as well as horizontal reach. Better said, if you go from zero to four spacers under your bars (keeping the same stem length), your reach distance will decrease, while total bar height (ground to bars) will increase. If you go the opposite direction, from 4 to 0 spacers, your reach distance will increase, and bar height decrease.
Generally speaking, wider bars are for more aggressive riding, while narrower are more of a standard on XC bikes. Wider bars generally mean greater leverage and stability, however, may be uncomfortable for smaller riders as the grip is wide (mind your shoulders too!). Not to mention, wider bars can be a challenge for narrow trails.
Sweep is relative to wrist and shoulder positioning. A brand will generally have the same sweep across the entirety of their handlebars. Don't overthink this one. Pay more attention to rise when choosing the bar.
Aluminum or carbon? Carbon is generally lighter, stronger, and much more stiff than aluminum. This translates into increased vibration dampening, and precise control. Nick and I have been running carbon bars for years, and are big fans!
So we've talked about a lot -- how do I choose a handlebar? Mountain biking is a very dynamic sport, across varying terrain. Everyone has a personal preference regarding comfort -- on a mid-rise bar, if you generally run a tall spacer stack, and are on a longer DH bike, perhaps try a hi-rise bar and shorten the stack. This will push your grip position horizontally away from you (increase the reach) putting your weight more over the front of the bike (greater traction!), while keeping same bar height. Or keep that mid-rise bar and play with spacer stack height. If you're racing XC, start with a
Generally speaking, there's no one rise that's recommended for everyone, as its truly personal preference, and much related to your riding style. Moral of the story... next time you need a new bar, try a different rise. Play with spacer height as well and ride a variety of trails.
Our Favorite Handlebar:
Our go to handlebar is Race Face's SixC 35mm carbon bar, 35 mm rise. It allows for a wide range of versatility in terms of bar height. If we're riding a longer bike, we can have a smaller spacer stack as well as the ability for the grip position to shift forward (longer reach) as we remove spacers, while maintaining an aggressive riding position. Realistically, we could go to a 20mm rise, and add more spacers under the bars to get the same vertical bar height, however, the reach would be shorter than our current setup, not our preference.
The SixC carbon bar currently comes at 800mm, however, both of us prefer a 760mm bar. The bar comes with graduated cutting marks on each end for cutting purposes. We measure twice, and cut once -- the bars were noticeably more stiff at 760mm compared to 800mm, but not so stiff they are uncomfortable or bother the joints.
We've been running the SixC for 4 years now, and have never broken a bar. They are lightweight, strong, and offer a good "feel" while riding. Regardless of our riding and racing, we put on new bars every year as they are our main connection to the bike outside of the pedals. Not worth it for a hairline crack or a weakened bar, albeit we have never had any issues or seen any hairline fractures. We've beaten and abused these bars over the years, and they are without a doubt the best on the market for feel and longevity. Not to mention they come in a variety of colors so you can color match your bike!
Next time you're shopping for bars, give the SixC a try. If you have a 20mm rise already, try a 35mm rise and ride a variety of terrain. Learn what you like, and take into consideration your riding style and preferences.
See you on the trail,
Kim and Nick Hardin
First things first, Dumonde Tech knows whats up.
Dumonde Tech was started in 1985 around the motorsports industry: clutch oils, engine oils and 2-stroke mix. In the bicycle world, they are known for their array of greases, and chain lubes, specifically the Lite (yellow) and Original Bicycle Chain Lubes.
What follows is an unbiased a review as possible of the Lite and Original Dumonde Tech Chain lubes. The only reported difference between the two is concentration, according to DMT -- with the light being less concentrated for easier application and optimum performance.
Consider this review relative to riding mountain bikes 5 to 6 days a week, primarily in the PNW (loam > fine dust).
How much do you know about chain lube?
The Dumonde Tech Lite and Original chain lubes are literally liquid plastic that through polymerization (via heat and pressure while riding) forms long-lasting "plating" on all chain surfaces.
But really, what does this mean?
It means that the plating bonds to the chain -- the lube literally can't be washed off! This makes for extremely environmentally friendly, durable lube that lasts and lasts and lasts. Your drivetrain can thank you later, as the more you use Dumonde Tech lube, the cleaner your chain and drivetrain will actually get -- It literally purges old (other) lube. This means that your equipment will last longer, saving you money and time.
Fun fact: Before using Dumonde Tech, we would go through two cassettes and 2-3 chains + chainrings each a year. However, once we started using Dumondetech, we can get through the entire season on the same cassette. Now, we only replace my chain and chainring really once a season.
Let's get down to the nitty gritty...
Application: Directions state, " Thoroughly clean and dry your chain before the first application of Dumonde Tech (you'll only need to do this once). Apply sparingly and wipe off excess lube with a cotton rag so that the chain's outer surface appears dry. Ride immediately.
In our experience, Dumonde Tech chain lube is easy to apply. It's thick enough that the drops land on the links as it come out of the bottle, but not so runny it leaves a spray of lube across the ground. Skin friendly too, in the event you get some on your hands...
Durability: Dumonde Tech recommends reapplying only when you start to HEAR the chain, not via appearance.
As we mentioned earlier, the lube is literally liquid plastic, so it can't be washed off. It literally bonds to chain links, extending the life of your equipment!
Despite this, regardless of lube need (via sound of course), we clean and lube our chains before every ride. Even if the ride is only a few miles -- it's more a habit than anything else. With that in mind, it's not very often we hear our chain, especially because living in the PNW, our dirt is more loam-based than other locations. With that said, in the hot summer months, or upon travel to more dusty locations, we will REALLY NEED chain lube.
Light vs Original: Relative to mountain biking, we use the original, more concentrated version when conditions are harsh. Think wet, muddy, dusty, gritty. Or.... primo conditions, but a long ride (20+ miles), where we really want to be sure we've got plenty of lube on our chain for the extent of the ride. Otherwise, we primarily use the light lube, for optimum performance: a proper balance between function and lube. You could perhaps argue we should do the opposite, however, I prefer to run light, and lube more often, than run thicker and lube only every so often. Regardless, the durability of the lube makes it particularly good for wet, sloppy conditions.
Smell: It may not smell like lavender, but it doesn't have a strong chemical smell either.
Sound: In our experience, when mountain biking, we can ride around 40 miles in the PNW on "Lite" lube before we hear our chain. Add about 15 miles for the "Original" Lube, and that's one happy cyclist. Road cycling you can expect these numbers to increase significantly (less dirt/dust, etc).
Chain Breakage? Since riding Dumondetech, we have never broken a chain (outside of your crazy mechanical). Coincidence, I think not.
All in all, we have been using Dumonde Tech for the last five years. We use it in the form of chain lube, and various greases for our bike, as well as motorcycles. Based out of Kirkland, Washington, we choose to support PNW local, and have experienced for ourselves the ridiculous durability of the Dumonde Tech product, and the extended life of our equipment. If you haven't tried Dumonde Tech, do it now!
Pro-tip: Dumonde Tech chain lube is safe for use all across your bike -- we even use it in our hubs!
Nick & Kim Hardin
Are you going on an all day ride, deep in the backcountry, where there are little to no resources or are you doing a 1 hour quickie after-work just outside of town?
Regardless, it's important to carry these essentials while out riding, AND know how to use them.
1. Spare tube + Pump + CO2
You never know when you may flat.
If you're tubeless, you'll want to bring a few CO2 cartridges (I carry two). A pump is nice backup if you blow through your CO2, and still need air.
2. Food & Water
Food & water = energy = Fun! Avoid the bonking and pack a bar and/or baby food.
Super important to tighten bolts, make those random adjustments, and generally save the day! A leather-man also comes in handy if you need to cut cables, toy with spokes, etc... It's a bonus if your multi-tool includes a chain breaker!
Depending on the season, this may be a windbreaker, or a full blown rain jacket -- always prepare for the worst, and check the weather before you go.
5. Derailliuer Hanger
This is a super small part that will absolutely SAVE your day. Super simple to replace, if needed, and may I repeat, will absolutely SAVE your day! Note: Each bike has a specific derailleur hanger - this is not a one size fits all situation. Do not leave home without it!
6. Random miscellaneous Parts:
Chainlink/quicklink: Remember, the link you need to carry depends on your specific drivetrain!
Spare valve w/core
Tire levers (unless you have super hands)
7. Random miscellaneous tools:
Zip ties: I fold these in half and stash in the center of my cranks- Handy!
Electrical Tape: Fixes everything from shoes to cable ends -- Do a couple wraps around your seat tube or handle bars for easy storage.
8. Fancy Stuff:
Sunscreen: Because, you know...
Extra pair of gloves: If you know you're going to get caught in the rain, or will be riding a trail with low-hanging wet brush, bring an extra set, and thank me later.
Tire-plugs: I am a huge fan! They take up such little room to carry, and depending on the terrain, may give you your only option to ride vs walk out. If you're somewhere where it's more likely you might see multiple flats -- just bring a plug tool and some extra plugs.
Extra chainlube: For all the geeks out there who hate the dry chain sound, bring a small bottle of extra lube. Or... more realistically, if you're planning to race a dusty epic, pushing all the watts, this will help your chain stay happy and in one piece. I highly recommend Dumondetech...
First Aid Kit: Not a bad idea...
Sunglasses: In the PNW where we're generally riding in the trees, not so much. In Colorado, hike-a-biking over a pass in the alpine, YES! Unless your riding lenses are tinted, of course.
Shameless plug: If you're looking to get some of this "stuff" out of your pack, and lighten the load, consider Dakine's Hot Laps Gripper Frame Pack -- it fits a tube, tire levers and 2 CO2! Super handy, gets the weight off your back and more space in your pack!
Anyone got a 9 and 10? What do you carry in your pack?
Kim & Nick Hardin
When there's a race on your local trails, you've not doubt got to take part -- even if you're off the couch.
The Cascadia Dirt Cup returned to Hood River, Oregon for the fourth year in a row, with a new mix of pedally moto trails to add to the course. My legs screamed from the start, but my heart and mind loved the challenge.
2nd on the day for me on my new Spartan 27.5, behind local ripper Hannah Bergmann - yea girl!
200 women, a whole lot of bikes, rad trails and good eats -- What more would you want from a weekend retreat? This is Roamfest!
There was something for everyone... if you were a shredder, looking to ride Pisgah on the daily and do your own thing, you could take the early morning shuttle, be out all day, and get a ride home just in time for dinner. If you were looking for a more social ride, you could sign up for one of the many "brand rides", and ride alongside industry members. "Less talky, more bikes", RoamFest is a festival all about riding -- there's no on-bike skills clinics, however, there are plenty of instructional clinics at vendor tents: Suspension setting clinic with FOX, Dakine's "What's in your pack?", noting what you should carry in your pack, Leigh Donovan's pump track sessions, and more. It's a perfect place as a female to totally nerd out in the sport, ask all the questions of all the professionals, and be comfortable in your own skin. Already looking forward to Sedona, AZ in November!
Cheers RoamFest for an awesome weekend,
Industry partners all set up
We've got what you need!
Dakine Intermediate Ride
Roots, roots and more roots!
Muddy roots - FUN!
Classic Pisgah Views
Did I mention it was muddy?
Thank goodness for Dumondetech!
Build-a-bike at Reeb's Ranch
Dakine/Hydrapak Happy Hour
Happy Hour means yard games at the Dakine tent
FOX teaching the ladies about suspension
All events should end in a massive sparkler and firework send-off!
“Dumela”, "Good morning/Good Afternoon/Good Night" in Basotho
It was quite the journey, 36 hours of travel time from the Columbia River Gorge to Lesotho, Africa. Known as the Kingdom in the Sky, Lesotho is entirely land-locked by South Africa, and has the highest lowest point of any country in the world (1400m or 4593 ft). It is the only country in the world to be entirely above 1000 meters! It is the land of no fences -- rather, the land is owned by King Letsie III, who gives permission to inhabit the land.
Upon crossing the border in Maseru, capital of Lesotho, it was apparent we were out of our comfort zone, as street vendors lined the streets selling grapes and peaches, rushing vehicles as they sped by. Security were at every gas station wearing kevlar vests, holding a machine gun. We were mean mugged immediately by most of the population as we later learned our van was identical to a taxi, and we weren't stopping to pick anyone up. Shops, SIM card stores and hair salons lined the streets with their corrugated metal siding and roofs, as people roamed the streets. There was no order to this chaos.
We quickly worked our way to Roma and were greeted by the many smiling faces of the children of Lesotho as well as the lovely staff at Roma Trading Post (RTP). The trading post sits at the base of the Maluti Mountains, and up until 2017 was the original site of trade in Roma -- donkeys, grain, cattle, pigs, chickens, you name it. The premise was eventually converted into housing, and is the current site of one of Velosolutions #pumpforpeace pumptrack, offering the children of Roma a place to gather off the street.
So why Lesotho? Why Kingdom Enduro? We met Rene Damseaux and his brother Francois way back when in Molini di Triora Italy, after racing EWS Final Ligure. We rode Final, Molini and San Remo together, becoming quick friends -- We’ve kept in touch and when Rene invites us to his race (in its second year), the first EWS qualifier on the African continent, we knew we couldn’t miss out!
Ladies and Gentleman, meet Rene Damseaux.
Trails in Lesotho are all hand built by Rene and his team of locals — providing jobs within the local community. Trails are rugged, raw, and require hiking to the top, every time. And by top, I mean top of the mountain, because each trail literally starts at the top of a mountain. Trails feature slick rock, rock ledges, boulder gardens, and a tad bit of flow. But mostly techy rock. While the hike-a-bikes are a thing, especially in 90F heat, the views at the top more than make up for it! Not to mention, the herder boys and town children who run alongside you the entire way, “Give me sweets”, “Give me money” or simply to help you push or carry your bike to the top.
We were on bikes upon arrival, riding trails behind RTP with the town children. Practice started the next day, offering a short introduction to local dirt and hike-a-bikes. Over the next few days, we would wake early to beat the heat while riding, and practice days 2, 1 and 3 respectively.
Lunch consisted of chicken and pap: braai (BBQ) chicken with a side of pap (white maiz/cornmash: an accompaniment to every meal), and local greens with peri-peri pepper sauce.
Evenings were filled with crashing thunderstorms and hail that filled the streets with water. Around the dinner table, there was plenty of chatter amongst new friends, mostly from SA, some from Europe, and a few from the states. Notable riders included Chris Johnston, Ludo May, Max Schumann and Fabian Scholz, as well as SA Enduro Champion, Frankie Dupont.
Mid-race, Day 3 (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Race Days came and went: Friday, Saturday, Sunday. While a few trails were pedally, I was very happy with my decision to bring my Spartan 27.5. Trails were rocky, techy and steep, perfect for 165mm travel. The sun and heat were a challenge over the course of long days, but manageable. Days one and two of racing were my favorite, with steep rock roll ins, and challenging, but manageable tech, while Day 3 took tech to the extreme!
Racing through villages along footpaths made for some close calls, mostly with cattle, lots of them. Photo: Michael Kirkman)
Day 1, Stage 1 Start (GoPro)
Day 2. (Photo Keira Duncan, 2018 SA National Champion)
Follow the arrows, slick-rock style! Thanks for the mid-stage motivation, Rene!
Another stage, another start on top of a mountain (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Day 2, Stage 3: Bushman's Pass (Photo: Michael Kirkman)
Nick Hardin, mechanic, foodie, shuttle-driver and mega-husband (Photo: Kim Hardin)
At the end of the three days, I walked away with the win, followed by Frankie Dupont and Sandra Hohl— Pretty happy with that for the first race of the year! Chris Johnston (Santa Cruz) took the win in the men’s, followed by Ludo May (BMC) and SA ripper Tim Bentley.
While out recovering from ACL surgery, Nick wasn’t able to race, but was able to explore local gravel roads, climbing the passes by which the race descended, such as God Help Me Pass, Bushman’s and Blue Mountain.
Of perhaps most important relative to the event was the awareness brought to us regarding the local community. Unbeknownst to us, there were so many kids on the trails because local school teachers were on strike, meaning kids were not in school. This meant that the kids were not getting lunch, and were generally unsupervised throughout the day as parents were working. Poverty is very prevalent in Lesotho and a rising concern, as is the growing prevalence of HIV/AIDS -- about 25% of the population are HIV positive. Related to this, Kingdom Enduro raised enough money via Velosolutions to provide meals for all the local kids for a few months! We can only hope more aid comes to this country to help not only the current generation, but the next.
It's Safari time!
The morning after the race, a crew consisting of race director Rene Damseaux, Ludo May, Chris Johnston, Max Schumann, Fabian Scholz, Nancy Pellissier, Nick & myself took off on a 13 hr journey to Pont Drift, the border of SA and Botswana via Johannesburg for a safari by bike with Cycle Mashatu.
Mashatu operates specifically in the 29,000 hectares (72000 acres) Mashatu Game Reserve, located in the Tuli Game Reserve in the Limpopo province, a known higher-risk malaria area, as well as location of recent foot and mouth disease outbreak (animals only).
Cycle Mashatu, Botswana, Africa (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Entering Botswana, we passed through a "Foot and Mouth Disease Checkpoint" and were required to dip our shoes, and have our bike tires sprayed with chemical (Photo: Kim Hardin)
We were greeted by Mario, one of our guides for the trip, and quickly ushered into Botswana for lunch and a safety briefing: “we do not want to see lions by bike”, “snakes are more scared of us than we are of them” (but there are plenty black mambas, puff adders, and spitting cobras in the area), “stop when I say stop, and be quiet when I say be quiet”.
Mario (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Team Meeting, led by Mario (Photo: Rene Damseaux)
One of the many dry, sandy stream bed crossings. They only see water as flash floods in the summer "rainy season", between November and April (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Once on bikes, we hustled to camp before dark, while quickly learning the ins and outs of safari: the animals are quite different when approached by bike versus vehicle. They see each person as an individual, and us a “herd”, while a vehicle is viewed a one large Individual, making them less threatening, especially as the animals have become accustomed to vehicles on the regular. This meant that when approaching an animal, they would generally run away, or in the case of elephants, want to charge us. It was most important to respect each and every individual animal and give wide berth, especially to Elephants, always having an “escape route”. This is no zoo, this is the real bush, and the animals clearly rule the bush. As we were getting to camp on Day 1, we came across our first Elephant, who quietly stalked us—we looped away only to hear and see a mock charge and trumpet from a second elephant nearby, prompting another loop away. After about 20 minutes of sneaking through the bush, looping our way past Ellie’s, we made it to camp. What an intro! Did I mention, Mario guided us through the bush without use of GPS? He did this everyday over a huge area of land and knew where we were at all times - impressive!
Nancy Pellissier, Ludo May, Rene D., Mario, Nick Hardin, Chris Johnston, Max Schumann, Kim Hardin and Fabien Scholz under the great Mashatu Tree. (Photo: Chris Johnston)
Breakfast is served: Yogurt, muesli, fruit and fresh-made bread (Photo: Kim Hardin)
The circle of life was very apparent in Mashatu. Fabien shows us a Kudu skull: a savannah "antelope" (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Riding in the bush-bush, as Mario says of Day 2 (Photo: Nick Hardin)
Elephants or "Ellies" were everywhere (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Ludo May, dropping in (Photo: Chris Johnston)
Dinner by fire & coal: Curries, meat stews, boboti, squash, and "pap" were staples.
(Photo: Chris Johnston)
I'd say ACL rehab is going well... (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Devinci Spartans in the wild (Photo: Chris Johnston)
Stories by firelight (Photo: Chris Johnston)
When in the bush.... (Photo: Rene Damseaux)
In the middle of no-where, Botswana, taking in the views of Mashatu Game Reserve (Photo: Nick Hardin)
The next few days we rode between 25-35km per day, guided by Mario and Lion. Between the two of our guides, they had over 12 years of experience guiding by bike, and a resulting plethora of knowledge in regards to animals, vegetation, and astronomy.
Photo: Nick Hardin
A group of giraffes is called a genie, while a single giraffe is known as a “tower”. Females have straighter “horns”, while males have tufts at the top.
A lions roar can be heard from over 8km away (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Mom and her baby Ellie (Photo: Chris Johnston)
While Lions mate for five straight days, every 5-15 minutes, elephants are pregnant for 24 months! A baby elephant on average weighs 250#. Elephants drink over 150l of water a day, and urinate over 50l of water a day!
Vervet Monkeys do indeed throw shit (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Just your typical Mashatu Safari camp (Photo: Kim Hardin)
A day in the safari life consisted of waking up around 6am to leave by 7am. Once on trail, we would “read the morning newspaper”, looking to the tracks from overnight as to what animals were nearby. We would see giraffes, zebra, impala, and baboons almost immediately, with Eland, cheetah, warthog, and leopard on occasion. The animal density was very high, meaning we never really had to “look” for the animals, they were always there.
Around 12:30pm, we would stop for high tea (Roobios of course. Coffee too, although most drink beer), and observe the hundreds of thorns in our tires. Thank goodness we brought extra sealant! We’d ride for another hour or two, Ludo would find a tree or two to ride down (or up?), while Max and Chris took proper photos, and the rest of us watched in awe. We’d then settle in at camp for a bucket shower and rest— it was simply too hot to be out pedaling midday for very long. Simple but delicious dinners were cooked over coals in cast iron. After an astronomy lesson or two, we’d go to bed and do it all over again the next day, hoping to hear the roar of a lion or cackle of a hyena in the distance.
It may have been 90 degrees out, but high tea was always a welcome stop! (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Ludo May, embracing the way of the Vervet Monkey (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Got sealant? Don't pull the thorns or you'll flat! (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Sometimes the "trail" was a road, sometimes the trail was simply our own going off-road through the bush (Photo: Rene Damseaux)
Proper tea time, Landcruiser and all... (Photo: Kim Hardin)
The third day of the trip was most memorable: we rounded a corner and our guide Mario stopped abruptly and told us to be very quiet. He pointed to the ground and what was a very fresh lion track. Lion in Mashatu are very elusive (6 in 23,000 hectares) and we were very close to one.
Mario, talking tracks... (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Mario radioed the sighting, and a larger safari truck came for support, while we pedaled in a direction opposite that from the tracks. Whew, that was close! I think we all were excited about seeing a lion, but not so excited to be on the ground with one, especially if it didn’t like bikes.
That evening we “rolled da wheels” (Mario’s queue in Afrikaan accent), into our last camp: Rather than sleep in tents, we slept under the stars, in a “Boma” of sorts, a protected circle with a fire in the middle. Vervet monkeys made home in the Mashatu tree above us, greeting us with plenty of entertainment upon arrival (shit-throwing). The go-away bird was almost constant “wahhhh”, and quickly became the group’s “chant”. We were told to watch for lions as “this area has quite a few”. I was still on the look out for snakes.
Our "boma" camp for the night (Photo: Kim Hardin)
A view inside our "boma" camp for the night (Photo: Nick Hardin)
Nick and Rene, taunting the nearby baboons (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Chris Johnston making the most of sundown next to the renown Baobab Tree, Africa's Iconic "Tree of Life" (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Throughout the night, baboon and Hyena talked nearby, but the lions stayed away. Rhinoceros bugs were a plenty, as were the “talky talky” big, known to beat their legs against their chest as they walk in search of a female.
Our last morning came quickly, and we hustled back to the border, full of new perspective and appreciation for such a special experience. Between the Kingdom Enduro and our Cycle Safari, we're reminded how simple life is, and how it's not things that enrich our lives, but the people and experiences along the way.
Kim & Nick Hardin